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South Korea’s Biggest Exchange UPbit 100% Solvent, New Report Finds

A new report from a Korean accounting firm has found the South Korean crypto exchange giant to be 100% solvent in light of recent worries about misconduct. A May raid on the company’s headquarters worried investors, who are now letting out sighs of relief as audits reinforce the company’s integrity.


A Knock at the Door

The Seoul-based company UPbit was able to prove its integrity to investors, Forbes reported on Sunday evening. The audit comes amidst a May 10th and 11th raid on the company’s Gangnam branch by Korean authorities. Forbes reports that:

As part of the raid South Korea’s financial watchdog, the Financial Services Commission (FSC), along with the Korea Financial Intelligence Unit (KFIU), seized hardware and documents from UPbit to evaluate claims from unknown sources that the exchange was insolvent.

South Korea’s Financial Services Commission Announces Creation of Crypto Division

On May 11th, Bloomberg noted the already-skeptical attitude that emerged in some circles prior to the raid, saying:

Before the clampdown, South Korea was something of a ground zero for the global crypto-mania. Volume on local exchanges soared at the end of last year, with Bitcoin and other tokens fetching large premiums in the country relative to international markets. The boom alarmed officials including Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, who said that cryptocurrencies might corrupt the nation’s youth.

Subsequently, the UPbit raid served to reinforce the views of crypto-skeptics like Lee Nak-yon.

A Sigh of Relief

Bitcoinist reported that subsequent to the raid, Bitcoin 00 dipped below the $9,000 mark amid investor panic. These fears “had a knock-on effect on altcoins, with Ether (ETH) dropping 8.4% to lose $700 support while Ripple (XRP) and Bitcoin Cash (BCH) both fell around 15%.”

The storm surrounding UPbit has seemed to clear, however. South Korean accounting firm Yoojin was tasked with overseeing the audits.

Still, many remained uneasy absent an official statement from the Korean government on the matter. Korean firm Dunamoo, however, has unveiled a report showing the results of the audit, which surely bode well for worried investors. Lee Seok-woo, president of Dunamoo, said:

UPbit currently has the exact amount of money held by the platform’s investors along with additional funds, more than enough to compensate every investor. Hence, UPbit is able to process withdrawals for customers upon the request of its customers and the exchange will continue to release audit reports on a regular basis to prove its solvency.

Investors will surely be able to take a deep breath as the company has assured its stakeholders that all is well. Despite proving solvency, the UPbit scare will surely leave many skeptics resigned to their positions. For the time being, however, investors are able to catch some sleep at night.

What are your thoughts on UPbit emerging unscathed from their audit? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.


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Čvc 30

Nasdaq Increases Exchange Customers and Looks to Police Crypto

Nasdaq Inc’s SMARTS trade surveillance technology is now employed by five cryptocurrency exchanges, according to reports. Last week it held a closed-door meeting to help improve the profile of cryptocurrencies in global markets.


According to Bloomberg reporting, Nasdaq Inc recently organized a meeting between its experts and cryptocurrency exchanges. Confirmed in attendance were representatives from Gemini, the exchange launched by Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss in 2016. In April 2018, Gemini contracted Nasdaq Inc in order to utilize its SMARTS trade monitoring technology.

Preventing Market Manipulation

Security and preventing manipulative trading must be key considerations for the Gemini exchange as it helps to provide a market price of bitcoin for Cboe Global’s bitcoin-based futures. Providing tangible price points for bitcoin is a critical consideration in whether the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) take the step from allowing bitcoin-based futures, to finally approving bitcoin-based exchange-traded funds (ETFs).

Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss' Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, alongside Cboe Global, have had bitcoin-based ETF applications pending with the U.S SEC for most of 2018.

Winklevoss Bitcoin Trust, alongside Cboe Global, have had bitcoin-based ETF applications pending with the U.S SEC for most of 2018. The Winklevoss application has now been rejected twice. Cboe Global has been working hard to answer the U.S SEC’s concerns over the market valuation of bitcoin and its volatility. If the U.S SEC approve a bitcoin-based ETF, in what could be a critical move for cryptocurrency credibility, the Cboe Global ETF is likely to be the first.

More Exchanges Hire Nasdaq

Nasdaq’s SMARTS technology monitors real-time trading activity and raises alerts with the exchange if it discovers unusual trading activity. Bloomberg reports indicate Nasdaq Inc is now working to protect five cryptocurrency exchanges, but Nasdaq is yet to confirm who three of the new customers are. SBI Virtual Currencies is one exchange now also using Nasdaq Inc’s services.

A Nasdaq spokesperson confirmed to Bloomberg that the meeting took place, but not its content or attendees, saying only that future meetings may also be on the agenda. Topics discussed included the future regulation of cryptocurrencies, and what tools and surveillance methods are needed to police cryptocurrency trading effectively.

Nasdaq’s prominence and expertise as a global trading giant means involvement in cryptocurrencies is to be expected. Nasdaq has partnered with DX to offer a powered cryptocurrency exchange which uses some of Nasdaq’s trading platform technology.   

The meeting may have a two-fold effect, increasing Nasdaq’s involvement while also helping to boost the security and credibility of the exchanges seeking input from trading experts.

Will Nasdaq’s involvement boost institutional interest? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.


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Čvc 24

London Police Proactive Against Alleged Cryptocurrency Money Laundering

After a warning from European law enforcement agency Europol earlier this year that billions of pounds are being laundered through cryptocurrencies, City of London officials have decided to take matters into their own hands. 


Transactions made in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are notoriously complicated to trace due to the fact that users can generally generate unlimited numbers of wallets without providing any identifying information. Nevertheless, law enforcement agencies seem to have no trouble tracking down cybercriminals dealing in cryptocurrencies — as evidenced by the recent indictment of Russian intelligence officers who used Bitcoin to fund their interference with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

Earlier this year, Europol officials arrested 11 individuals and identified 137 others allegedly involved in a large-scale network for laundering drug money with cryptocurrencies as a part of its Tulipan Blanca operation. The agency warned that there is currently three to four billion pounds ($4.1 to $5.5 billion) worth of digital currencies being laundered in Europe alone, though little evidence was provided to back this claim.

In contrast, the Hong Kong Financial Services and Treasury (FSTB) admitted in its “Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing Risk Assessment” report that it sees no evidence of Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies being used to launder money or fund terror organizations whatsoever.

Still, accusations of crime in the cryptocurrency world persist.

The Deputy Governor of the Bank of England, Sam Woods — who is candidly wary of cryptocurrencies — wrote letters to the executives of financial institutions claiming (without evidence) that digital currencies “appear vulnerable to fraud and manipulation, as well as money-laundering and terrorist financing risks.”

London Police Getting Proactive

To stay ahead of the future generation of cybercriminals, the City of London Police Department is implementing a new cryptocurrency fraud course at their Economic Crime Academy beginning this fall, according to The Telegraph. A City of London Police spokesperson commented:

On successful completion of this course, participants will understand how to detect, seize and investigate the use of cryptocurrencies in an investigative context… It will be the first of its kind and has been developed in response to feedback from police officers nationally who felt there wasn’t enough training available in this area.

While Bitcoin cannot be blamed for financial transgressions any more than SMS can be blamed for infidelity, a select bunch of computer literate criminals has taken a liking to the new technology and it is to the advantage of law enforcement agencies and financial authorities around the world to keep their staff educated on the latest blockchain trends — whether they are being used to clean dirty money or not.

What do you think of the new programs to educate officials about digital money laundering? Will they be useful, or will the technology evolve quicker than they can adapt? Let us know in the comments below! 


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Čvn 26

EU Adopts New AML Directive to Combat Cryptocurrency Crimes

The European Union recently adopted a new anti-money laundering (AML) directive specifically targeting cryptocurrencies. It is the fifth AML directive of the EU, and aims to detect, investigate, and prevent financial crimes in the region.


Details of the Directive

The directive tagged “Directive (EU) 2015/849” allows Financial Intelligence Units (FIUs) to access cryptocurrency wallet information. These security agencies will be able to identify the owner of a cryptocurrency address, based on this latest policy. A portion of the directive reads:

It is therefore essential to extend the scope of Directive (EU) 2015/849 so as to include virtual currency exchange platforms and custodian wallet providers. Competent authorities should be able to monitor the use of virtual currencies. This would provide a balanced and proportional approach, safeguarding technical advances and the high degree of transparency attained in the field of alternative finance and social entrepreneurship.

The major highlights of the new directive include:

  • A better understanding of the risks posed by virtual currencies as well as prepaid cards.
  • Improved cooperation between FIUs
  • More comprehensive checks on transactions originating from “high-risk third countries.”

One crucial aspect of the new policy is balancing its objectives of hindering criminal finance without disrupting the region’s payment ecosystem. Commenting on the new directive, Bulgarian finance minister and President of the European Council said:

These new rules respond to the need for increased security in Europe by further removing the means available to terrorists. They will enable us to disrupt criminal networks without compromising fundamental rights and economic freedoms.

Cryptocurrency and ML/TF

A large part of the government opposition to cryptocurrency lies in the anonymity of the system. Many governments around the world are quick to declare that virtual currencies provide a viable conduit for money laundering and terrorist financing (ML/TF).

Recently, Robert Novy, Deputy Assistant Director of the U.S. Secret Service’s Office of Investigations called for “additional legislative actions” to address the dangers posed by privacy coins. Rep. Robert Pittenger of North Carolina even described virtual currencies as “one of the greatest emerging threats to U.S. national security.”

However, experts like Matt Peyer disagree, saying cryptocurrencies are for the most part overrated for terrorist finance. According to Peyer, while virtual currency transactions are somewhat anonymous, lack of places that accept them in known terror havens make them unsuitable for supporting terrorist activities.

In fact, a report from the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) revealed that only 7.929 BTC were linked to terrorist financing between 2015 and 2017.

What is your opinion on the new EU AML directive? Do you think cryptocurrencies are a viable means for terrorist financing and financial crimes? Keep the conversation going in the comment section below.


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Čvn 09

South Korea Claims $28M Tax From Bithumb But Finds No ‘Illegal Activity’

· June 8, 2018 · 8:00 pm

South Korea’s National Tax Service (NTS) has requested $30 billion won ($28 million) in taxes from major cryptocurrency exchange Bithumb in a move which has gained positive feedback from the community.


Bithumb ‘Will Not Object’ To Tax Bill

Local media reported on June 8 that Bithumb, which posted revenues of 427 billion won ($397 million) in 2017, will pay the bill following an audit from South Korea’s Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

As a result of the audit, which occurred in April, the IRS also confirmed that investigators had not found “any illegal activities such as tax evasion.”

An NTS official said:

The IRS has conducted a tax investigation against Bithumb for the 2014 to 2017 business years. […] We understand that Bithumb has decided to pay the related taxes without any objection to the imposed tax amount.

Cryptocurrency commentators received the news warmly on social media, noting that Bithumb getting the all-clear from regulators marked a positive step forward for South Korea’s exchange industry.

South Korea Stabilizes Crypto

Earlier this year, the government moved to clamp down on exchange operators, banning multiple accounts and forcing users to link their exchange account with their bank account. Foreign accounts were also halted, along with provisional warnings from authorities that exchanges would soon need to respond to tax obligations from the previous 2017-18 tax year.

The boon for Bithumb, meanwhile, comes as Seoul continues to consider reversing its previous ban on ICOs. A National Assembly committee dedicated to studying the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ recommended during a meeting on May 29 that it plans to “establish a legal basis for cryptocurrency trading, including permission of ICOs.”

Also among its recommendations was making “improvements” to the “transparency” of the local cryptocurrency industry, along with “establishing a healthy trade order,” local news outlet Business Korea reported.

What do you think about Bithumb’s tax bill? Let us know in the comments section below.


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US Securities and Exchange Commission Launches ‘HoweyCoins’ ICO

· May 17, 2018 · 8:00 pm

In a surprising turn of events, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has launched its own initial coin offering dubbed HoweyCoins.


‘A Hot Investment Opportunity’

Anyone looking for a hot new initial coin offering (ICO) should look no further than the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s brand new token sale for HoweyCoins. States the regulatory authority in an official press release:

If you’ve ever been tempted to buy into a hot investment opportunity linked with luxury travel, the Securities and Exchange Commission has a deal for you.

Check out the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy’s mock initial coin offering (ICO) website that touts an all too good to be true investment opportunity. But please don’t expect the SEC to fly you anywhere exotic—because the offer isn’t real.

Unsurprisingly, the SEC isn’t actually launching its own token sale. Rather, the independent agency of the United States federal government has set up a mock website in order to educate investors about the perils of investing in fraudulent ICOs.

Clicking “Buy Coins Now” on HoweyCoins.com — a tongue-in-cheek reference to a landmark US Supreme Court decision in 1946 — will not actually sell you coins, but rather offer tools and advice from the SEC and other financial regulators.

The website has reportedly been set up to protect regular investors, and “features several of the enticements that are common to fraudulent offerings, including a white paper with a complex yet vague explanation of the investment opportunity, promises of guaranteed returns, and a countdown clock that shows time is quickly running out on the deal of a lifetime.”

The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy’s Chief Counsel, Owen Donley — aka HoweyCoins’ Josh Hinze — explains:

Fraudsters can quickly build an attractive website and load it up with convoluted jargon to lure investors into phony deals. But fraudulent sites also often have red flags that can be dead giveaways if you know what to look for.

Likewise, SEC Chairman Jay Clayton states:

The rapid growth of the ‘ICO’ market, and its widespread promotion as a new investment opportunity, has provided fertile ground for bad actors to take advantage of our Main Street investors. We embrace new technologies, but we also want investors to see what fraud looks like, so we built this educational site with many of the classic warning signs of fraud. Distributed ledger technology can add efficiency to the capital raising process, but promoters and issuers need to make sure they follow the securities laws. I encourage investors to do their diligence and ask questions.

HoweyCoins.com does indeed look a lot like the vast majority of websites offering ICOs and may be interpreted as a clever and funny way to educate investors against fraudulent schemes — as opposed to simply providing bullet points on a government website.

What do you think of the SEC’s new mock ICO? Do you think this is a positive move in the education of investors against fraudulent ICOs and bad actors in the cryptocurrency space? Be sure to let us know in the comments below! 


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Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Bans Cryptocurrency Trading, Financial Institutions Given 60 Days to Comply

· May 12, 2018 · 8:00 pm

The financial services regulator for the southern African country of Zimbabwe – the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) – has banned all financial services institutions in the country from all forms of cryptocurrency trading. The directive was shared in a circular on virtual currencies distributed to all institutions on Friday.


Cryptocurrency Trading Banned Through Banking Services

According to a news report, the circular which was signed by the RBZ registrar of banking institutions Norman Mataruka, the central bank has said that it is taking these measures to protect the public and safeguard the integrity, safety, and soundness of the country’s financial system.

All financial institutions in Zimbabwe which include commercial banks and mobile money service providers have been told to ensure to not use, trade, hold or transact in virtual currencies or provide banking services that would facilitate any individual or entity in dealing with or settling cryptocurrencies.

The ban outlined a swathe of services that include maintaining accounts, registering, trading, clearing, collateral arrangements, remittances, payment and settlement accounts, giving loans against tokens, accepting tokens as collateral, opening accounts of cryptocurrencies exchanges and moving money in accounts relating to cryptocurrency trading.

The RBZ has also directed banks to terminate any existing relationships with virtual currency exchanges in sixty days to liquidate existing account balances.

Zimbabwe does not recognize cryptocurrencies as legal tender and the country does not have a regulatory framework for virtual currencies or cryptocurrency trading. However, it has managed to effect a ban by directing financial institutions to keep their hands off all transaction and services related to cryptocurrencies.

Cryptocurrency Trading Banned Through Banking Services

Exercising Caution and Choking an Industry at the Same Time

The stance that has been taken by Zimbabwe’s central bank isn’t new. The cryptocurrencies space is still facing a lot of scrutiny and regulators in other markets have taken a cautious approach, pushed by concerns around money laundering, tax evasion, fraud and in cases like Zimbabwe, the externalization of foreign currency in response to the country’s foreign currency challenges.

Countries like India and China have explored this route before and in Africa, Kenya’s regulator has also taken a hard stance against cryptocurrencies. They are all meant to be measures against potential risks in a new space.

However, such moves also have a negative impact on legal service providers including entities that solve some problems that affect the economy.

In Zimbabwe, a number of businesses that have emerged in this space over the past few years that include the local cryptocurrency exchanges like Golix as well as outfits that have been using cryptocurrencies to facilitate remittances such as Bitmari will be affected by the directive.

Do you think that regulators that put restrictions on cryptocurrency activities because of the risk of crimes like money laundering are justified? Please let us know in the comments below. 


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Iran Turns to Bitcoin in Preparation for Renewed U.S. Sanctions

· May 10, 2018 · 8:00 pm

With U.S. President Donald Trump declining to renew a nuclear deal with Iran, citizens of the country are turning to Bitcoin. Iran is facing renewed sanctions from the United States which could signal the start of new economic problems. There are also reports that the Iranian government is looking to create a state-owned cryptocurrency.


Impending Economic Troubles

Fresh sanctions from the U.S. will adversely affect Iran’s exports especially oil which forms a considerable portion of its GDP. The country’s currency, the rial has lost a lot of ground on the U.S. dollar. This decrease in value follows several months of forex shortage and financial difficulties in the banking sector. As a result, the local economy has been declining with the situation expected to worsen with the issuing of fresh sanctions. The Central Bank of Iran (CBI) has tried to remedy the situation but seemingly to no avail. The apex bank unified the official and black-market forex rates, but the rial has continued to plummet.

A State-owned Crypto Solution.

There have been numerous reports that the Iranian government is developing a state-owned cryptocurrency. Jayad Azari-Jahromi, the country’s ICT Minister, announced in April that an experimental model of the local crypto project was ready. This announcement followed the ban placed by the CBI on Bitcoin and other cryptos. The country’s apex bank prohibited all banks and lending institutions from facilitating cryptocurrency transactions.

If Iran does develop a local crypto, it will be following in the footsteps of Venezuela. The Latin-American nation launched its petro cryptocurrency earlier in the year. Many see the petro as a way of circumventing economic restrictions affecting the country. In response, the United States has banned the petro, and this will likely diminish its exchangeability. If Iran decides to follow the same route, its local cryptocurrency will likely suffer the same ban.

Bitcoin to the Rescue

Bitcoin to the Rescue

Despite the Bitcoin ban, Iranians are still using bitcoin to send money out of the country. According to reports in the local media, residents of the nation have spent more than $2.5 billion in acquiring cryptos in recent months. The CBI ban, however, is expected to significantly reduce the outflow by making more significant transactions a lot more difficult.

Mohammad Reza Pourebrahimi, the Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s Economic Commission, believes most of the crypto activities in the country are speculative investments. He also said that foreign cryptocurrencies are a threat to Iran’s banking system. As such, it is necessary for the government to develop a national virtual currency.

Can Iran navigate the problems brought about by economic sanctions using cryptocurrency? Let us know in the comment section below.


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Tax Attorney: Blockchain Immutability ‘Does Make The IRS Smile’ (Interview)

· April 20, 2018 · 4:30 pm

Bitcoinist spoke with Alexander Stern, legal attorney and founder of Attorney IO, to unpack the complexities related to Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies taxes, potential loopholes for users, and how the IRS can easily track individuals using Bitcoin compared to fiat currencies. 


Alexander Stern

The fact that a lot of this is on a blockchain (and cannot be tampered with) does make the IRS smile.

– Alexander Stern

Bitcoinist: First, how and for how long has your law firm been involved with Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies? Are you seeing increasing interest from clients?

Alexander Stern: I’m an attorney and the founder of Attorney IO. Attorney IO is a startup that provides legal AI to other lawyers to give them an AI’s perspective on the law. We proudly support lawyers working on the latest cryptocurrency issues, spanning from taxes to securities. I believe smart contract technology and legal AI are the future of the legal profession.

Bitcoinist: So do you see the legal profession also facing disruption? In other words, will many legal experts be replaced by AI and smart contracts in the future? 

Alexander Stern: Yes, I think a huge number of lawyers will be replaced by AI and smart contracts. However, the best lawyers will embrace this techno-legal future rather than fight it. It is now common to get a joint degree in law and business.

With the rise of AI and smart contracts, I think we’ll start seeing a lot more people getting joint degrees in law and computer science.

Bitcoinist: Is trading crypto-to-crypto on an exchange like Binance or Poloniex, for example, a taxable event? Is it retroactive? If so, from what date did this go into effect?

Alexander Stern: We asked some of the top tax law professors in the country this question. The Attorney IO Panel Report generally found that starting January 1st, 2018, all crypto-to-crypto exchanges are taxable events.

This is the case whether you use an exchange such as Poloniex or even if you make a private swap without using an exchange. The only exception I’m aware of may be to use non-taxable retirement accounts. However, the panel said that, prior to 2018, a great deal of crypto-to-crypto exchanges are taxable events and have been since before the Bitcoin whitepaper was published. The question is whether the two crypto assets being exchanged are highly similar to each other in how they function.

For example, it is arguable that Bitcoin and Litecoin are sufficiently similar to suggest swapping one for the other may be a non-taxable “like-kind exchange.”

On the other hand, one panelist said, “I don’t think a swap of cloud storage for a car is LK [like-kind]. So why should a digital asset that allowed you only to get cloud storage be LK [like-kind] with a digital asset that could be redeemed only for a car?” In other words, all exchanges going back to Bitcoin’s release are potentially taxable events, especially when the two coins are meaningfully different in function.

Bitcoinist: Is it possible to have taxable gains despite never having been converted into dollars? Moreover, what if the gains were wiped out by later unrealized losses?

Alexander Stern: Yes, this is the single biggest news of the panel report. The blockchain ecosystem could move into a second generation of coins and leave the first generation in the dust. If that happens and most of this first wave of tokens drop to levels seen only a few years ago, thousands of families could owe tens of billions of dollars in taxes, despite receiving much less than that in dollars. This could haunt people for the rest of their lives.

One panelist, Prof. Ainsworth, answered this question as follows: “Absolutely. The same happens in any real estate bubble where people are flipping homes. Some people flip every month, and if they end up flipping a $1 million home at the top of the market, and the value of all real estate ‘tanks,’ it is possible to have [taxable] gains that exceed the current market value of real estate.”

Another panelist, Prof. Kane, said, “I could exchange an appreciated, valuable painting for a farm. Not like kind (even before 2017 changes), so I recognize gain. But then the land market crashes, and I take a big loss. Was it wrong for the system to tax me given I did not really end up with any gain at the end of the day?”

Bitcoinist: The CFTC considers crypto to be commodities while the SEC believes some are securities. Is there any clarity at this point?

Alexander Stern: Cryptocurrencies are a completely new technology and paradigm. Regulators could decide they have features of both securities and commodities. It will also likely depend on the token itself rather than the asset class as a whole.

Bitcoin looks a lot more like a commodity. The latest ICO often looks a lot more like a security.

Ultimately, one token could be regulated as both a security and a commodity. This could mean at least two federal agencies would have simultaneous authority over one token.

Bitcoinist: Many people in the crypto space get paid salaries in Bitcoin, for example. Would this be taxable the same as income in dollars?

Alexander Stern: Yes. If you get paid in Bitcoin or any other digital asset, you generally have the same tax responsibilities as payment in dollars.

Bitcoinist: We’ve seen instances where people claim they got “hacked” and that the funds are no longer theirs. How can the IRS technically prove that an individual has control of their funds?

Alexander Stern: In my opinion, this seems very similar to losses due to theft outside of the blockchain. If you keep half of your salary as cash under your mattress, it is vulnerable to theft too. In some cases, the IRS does allow you to deduct for theft, but it is a very case-specific process. If you have a substantial theft from a cryptocurrency hack, you should get a tax attorney to guide you.

Documentation, such as police reports or news articles on a major hack, can be crucial to demonstrate to the IRS that you did indeed lose money due to theft. Nobody should consider claiming a hack that is not genuine. That may lead to serious consequences that could include jail and fines.

Bitcoinist: Are there any legal loopholes that Bitcoin users can use to avoid taxation? For example, sending bitcoin to another person as a “gift”?

Alexander Stern: Generally speaking, no. A good rule of thumb in the tax world is to ask whether something would be effective if you use dollars instead of cryptocurrencies. If you get a salary in dollars or cryptocurrencies, you cannot avoid income tax by saying you gifted it all away.

IRS

Bitcoinist: The IRS is increasingly forcing third-party intermediaries to turn over records such as we’ve seen with Coinbase. However, since technological innovation is always one step ahead, could new tech, such as anonymizing features, decentralized exchanges, cross-chain atomic swaps, etc., make it even harder for authorities to track individuals? Who do you see winning this game of cat-and-mouse?

Alexander Stern: These new technologies could make it harder for the IRS but certainly not impossible. The Bitcoin blockchain is particularly susceptible to scrutiny. Panelist Prof. Ainsworth notes that “all the IRS needs to do is get a good computer out and draft assessment notices once they have the account numbers.

The fact that a lot of this is on a blockchain (and cannot be tampered with) does make the IRS smile. Assessments could not be easier. The metaphor of ‘fish in a barrel’ comes to mind.”

However, the IRS is a very capable agency. People try to dodge taxes outside of blockchain investments all of the time. When you start driving around in a Lamborghini but report only a small income, that raises some serious red flags. If the IRS can catch tax evaders using cash, it can do so with even the most sophisticated anonymous blockchain assets.

Bitcoinist: Given that 2017 was a record year in terms of price gains across the board for cryptocurrencies, do you believe we’ll see more people file taxes on the crypto returns this year or less?

Alexander Stern: All sorts of federal and state government agencies have seen the dramatic price appreciation of cryptocurrencies. They all want to increase their authority and get a piece of the pie. The panel report notes that only a few months ago we saw a ramp up in IRS scrutiny of Coinbase.

I think we’ll start seeing significant legal action taken against cryptocurrency tax dodgers, and this enforcement will spark a community-wide increase in paying taxes.

Bitcoinist: Do you think tax service companies like Turbo Tax or H&R Block will start offering cryptocurrency tax services as it becomes more popular?

Alexander Stern: Yes, I think that’s a great idea. Turbo Tax and H&R Block could make a ton of money by tapping into this burgeoning market. Most people want to comply with the law and that means paying taxes. These companies can make a few small additions to their systems and capture this market.

taxes

Bitcoinist: What’s your advice for cryptocurrency users moving forward? Should they keep track of every single transaction and trade?

Alexander Stern: The panel report does find people should track every single trade. Panelist Prof. Chodorow says, “To comply with the tax laws, keep track of how much you paid for each coin. Further, keep track of which coin you sell or spend as well as the value of the coin at the time you dispose of it. You will also need to determine how long you have held the coin. If you hold your coins at one of the exchange companies, those companies should be able to provide you that information.”

He adds, “Any time that you sell or spend a virtual coin, you will have a tax gain or loss if the value of the coin at the time you sold or spent it differs from the value when you acquired it.”

In other words, even if you buy a small item such as a cup of coffee, you are technically incurring a tax obligation.

It is no different than if you sold $5 in Bitcoin and took that $5 to the coffee shop. Both events are taxable. While this could limit the practical use of these assets as currencies, it may not be so onerous if you are with an exchange that automatically records all of the necessary information each time you make a trade.

Bitcoinist: Finally, where can people find more information on this topic?

Alexander Stern: I suggest that people read the entire Attorney IO panel report on cryptocurrency taxes and adjust their bookkeeping and tax strategies accordingly. Some of the best law professors in the world took the time to educate the cryptocurrency community about their obligations. It’s worth looking into what they have to say.

Did you pay your cryptocurrency taxes this year? Share your comments below! 


Images courtesy of Shutterstock, Attorney IO

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Hong-Kong Based Exchange OKEx Plans to Move to Malta

· April 15, 2018 · 4:00 pm

OKEx, one of the largest exchanges in the world, has announced plans to move to the European island, Malta. This announcement came quickly after a similar announcement made by Binance, one of OKEx’s main competitors.


In an attempt to gain an understanding of the political climate around cryptocurrencies in Malta, OKEx’s executives met with the Maltese government. While many EU countries are taking a standoff-ish, if not downright hostile, approach to cryptocurrency, Malta – which aims to become a ‘global pioneer’ for cryptocurrency – has proven to be extremely welcoming to crypto and blockchain businesses.

Currently, OKEx only offers crypto to crypto trading along with a futures market. OKEx is currently based in Hong Kong, which has probably made it difficult for the exchange to obtain the required licenses to allow for a fiat gateway to be opened in collaboration with banking systems.  However, some suspect that with the move to Malta, that the exchange will open fiat to crypto trading, which will become an essential part of any successful exchange in the near future. 

OKEx CEO Chris Lee stated:

We look forward to working with the Malta government as it is forward thinking and shares many of our same values: the most important of which are protection of traders and the general public, compliance with Anti Money Laundering and Know Your Customer standards, and recognition of the innovation and importance of continued development in the Blockchain ecosystem.

Malta – a Global Pioneer for All Things Crypto

Since the rise of the cryptocurrency industry, Malta has been continually open to accepting companies who are looking for a bit more wiggle room with regard to regulations. As a result of this, Malta has established itself as the crypto and blockchain ‘go to’ locale as more startups and exchanges flock to the country.

Malta - a Global Pioneer for All Things Crypto

Earlier in 2018, Malta’s government announced their plans for a new segment of the government called the Digital Innovation Authority which aims to provide full legitimacy for blockchain and cryptocurrency companies alike.

It is unlikely that Malta will be averse to any legitimate cryptocurrency or blockchain company in the future as their policy plans indicate that they are willing to keep cryptocurrency rules minimal.

OKEx Chief Risk Officer and Head of Government Relations noted:

Malta’s Virtual Financial Asset Act is a solid foundation for the industry and the government to work together in fostering the nascent blockchain/digital asset industry. More specifically, Malta’s sound risk-based approach will help cultivate a responsible, compliant, and healthy ecosystem.

Do you think that the cryptocurrency and related technology industry will flourish in Malta? If not, where else? Let us know in the comments!


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